3 Types of Aircraft Display Systems

In the mid 1900s, aircraft cockpits were not equipped with electronic instrumentation and display systems. Apart from such advanced technology not existing, air transport operations did not necessitate modern systems like electronic flight displays. That being said, pilots often struggled to simultaneously manage hundreds of instruments during flight. These instruments would be displayed as gauges across the cockpit and were incredibly difficult to interpret during night flights because of the lack of illuminated components.

Today, modern aircraft take advantage of “glass panel” or “glass cockpit” displays which feature LCD panels. Usually available in 8-inch, 10-inch, or 15-inch variations, glass cockpits present all critical flight data efficiently. Moreover, they contain an Integrated Flight Deck that uses an electronic display to show aircraft airspeed, altitude, and elevation information, and it offers navigation and communication capabilities. Additionally, there are controls for aerial surveillance and other related aircraft and engine systems.

Over time, aircraft cockpit display systems have improved the human-machine interface by enabling more visual interaction with human gestures. In fact, the improvements are so vast that the global aircraft cockpit display system market is expected to reach $2,533.39 million by 2028 according to Statistics MRC (www.strategymrc.com). There are three main types of display systems, those of which include primary flight deck (PFD), multifunctional deck (MFD), and engine-indicating and crew alerting system (EICAS) displays.

Primary Flight Deck Display (PFD)

A primary flight display is a critical part of an aircraft’s flight instruments. Considered a standard on most commercial aircraft, the PFD serves as a source of data for pilots. It combines vital data from the six-pack, a group of gyroscopic instruments that include the flight speed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, direction indicator, vertical speed indicator, and turning coordinator. Furthermore, the PFD enhances situational awareness by warning pilots of unexpected or potentially dangerous conditions by changing the display color or sounding an auditory alert.

Multifunctional Deck Display (MFD)

Multifunctional deck displays belong to the digital era of modern airplanes and helicopters. They consist of a compact screen, usually a CRT or LCD, surrounded by a few configurable keys that can be utilized to present information to a user in a myriad of programmable ways. One key advantage of MFDs over analog displays is that it is compact as the data can be given in a multitude of pages instead of all at once. An MFD can show navigation and meteorological data, as well as a customized chart that presents overlay information like the route plan, weather information, restricted airspace, and air traffic. In addition, MFDs can also show the airplane’s guide radius based on its current position over terrain, winds, speed, and altitude.

Engine-Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS)

An engine-indicating and crew-alerting system is an integrated system that allows crew to view complex information about various aircraft systems in an easy-to-read format and alert crew of any possible hazardous situations. EICASs generally incorporate instruments for many engine parameters like rotational speed, temperature values, and more. They also monitor hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, deicing, environmental, and control surface systems.


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